A meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and the leader of the Congress is scheduled to be held on March 1 to discuss the appointment of Lokpal, the Supreme Court was informed Friday. The post has been vacant since the law for a Lokpal was passed in 2013. Attorney General K K Venugopal conveyed word on the proposed meeting to a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi when a contempt petition filed by NGO Common Cause came up for hearing.
In April 22, 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the government to immediately implement the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and appoint a Lokpal. The order came on a PIL filed in 2014 by the NGO which had challenged the constitutionality of the search committee rules for appointment of a Lokpal.
The apex court had also brushed aside the government’s contention that appointment of a Lokpal chairperson and members could not take place because certain amendments to the law were pending before Parliament. The Centre had cited the lack of a Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha as the reason why the selection committee could not be constituted.
Under the 2013 Act, the appointment of a Lokpal is to be made by a high-level selection committee of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist chosen by them. The Congress, which is the largest Opposition party in Lok Sabha, lacks the requisite 10 per cent of the total number of seats, and has thereby been denied the post of the Leader of Opposition.
A Bill to amend the law to include the leader of the largest Opposition party in the search committee, due to the lack of a Leader of Opposition, is pending before Parliament. The NGO contended that the government had not implemented the court’s directions. These laws envisaged appointment of an anti-corruption ombudsman for hearing graft cases against lawmakers and officials of the central government, its counsel Prashant Bhushan said.
The Attorney General told the court Friday that the post of the eminent jurist in the selection panel for Lokpal had been vacant after previous member P P Rao passed away in September 2017. He said it was likely to be filled soon. Following the Attorney General’s submission, the bench asked the Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to file an affidavit by March 5, detailing the steps the government proposes to take.